The following post was written by Nathan Albert, Director of Pastoral Care at The Marin Foundation, after individuals from The Marin Foundation team visited Emmaus Ministries to learn more about the work they are engaging in Chicago.
I was recently introduced to a great organization in the Uptown neighborhood of Chicago. It is called Emmaus Ministries and it seeks to reach out to young men who are trapped by male street prostitution (hustling), generational poverty, homelessness, drug addiction and HIV/AIDS. Emmaus hopes to “build relationships of trust with these men, working together to help them get off the streets and build a relationship with Jesus Christ.”
Surprisingly, male prostitution is on the rise in urban areas and yet male prostitutes often blend into the general homeless population, often being less visible than female prostitution. Nationwide, males now account for roughly 50 percent of all prostitution arrests. According to Emmaus Ministries, contrary to some assumptions, hustling includes both heterosexual and gay men who engage in prostitution to feed drug or alcohol addictions or to fight off homelessness.
Emmaus “considers male hustlers to be the most [forgotten people] in our nation’s cities and a population that’s marginalized and abused even within the homeless community. Male hustlers often contend with learning disabilities, illiteracy, mental illness, addiction and homelessness. They come from backgrounds filled with physical and sexual abuse (including parents who prostitute them), neglect, generational welfare, poverty, and criminality.”
Thus, Emmaus Ministries seeks to restore their dignity through intentional community, discipleship, and practical assistance. Seven nights a week, 365 days a year, teams of men and women walk the streets to offer hot coffee, cookies, and invite men to the Emmaus drop-in center. Not only does Emmaus provide hot showers, laundry facilities, clothing and other practical needs for those men in prostitution at their drop-in center, but the Emmaus staff, volunteers, and men off the streets sit down to eat a family style meal together on a weekly basis. Finally, Emmaus Ministries has their Kaio Community, which is an intentional community that seeks to learn about urban ministry and works as key volunteers in return for free room and board, health insurance, and a small weekly stipend.
In my travels and work in Thailand, I saw a lot of prostitution and the sex slave industry first hand. It was heartbreaking and overwhelming. The children to whom I taught English in the slums of Bangkok may very soon be forced into such abusive prostitution. Yet being in the U.S., I do not often realize that prostitution and human trafficking even exists in my backyard. It’s easy to think it’s a problem somewhere else, not a few blocks from my apartment. I am so impressed with Emmaus Ministries and think they are doing some amazing work. They are in the grit and dirty work of ministry- walking the streets from 10pm-4am, intentionally building relationships with men who are often ignored, and giving their lives to better the lives of others. I applaud what they do.
I encourage you to check out how you might be able to get involved with Emmaus Ministries- you can volunteer, walk the streets, donate clothing or food, receive their newsletter, get an educational tour, cook a meal for the guys, or give financially. Check out their website at www.streets.org or “like” them at facebook.com/EmmausChicago.